True Lithuania

Rugby, Baseball, Cricket, Handball and Motoball in Lithuania

Except for basketball, football and ice hockey, the other three of the world’s most popular team sports keep a low key in Lithuania.

Rugby Union is more popular in Šiauliai but less known elsewhere. It is played solely at the amateur level.

Baseball, once banned in the Soviet Union as a capitalist sport, is even less visible. Cricket is not played at all with no stadiums available in Lithuania. Lithuania has no cricket national team.

These differences in popularity are well reflected in TV news with Rugby World Cup or national rugby club finals getting an occasional mentioning. In the case of baseball, only MBL World Series results are considered to be worth mentioning while cricket probably never made it into Lithuanian sports news or newspapers whatever would happen.

A match of ritinis (ripka)

Ritinis (a.k.a. Ripka) is the only locally-invented sport. It is rooted in Medieval Lithuanian shepherd games. Often hailed as growing it still remains more of a curiosity, with its amateur league hosting tournaments in some summer weekends. ©Augustinas Žemaitis.

Another team sport where Lithuania has a local league and a national team with moderate international success in handball. The national team consists largely of players playing professionally abroad. It qualified at international championships but failed to achieve significant results there.

A more exotic team sport followed in some areas of western Lithuania is the motoball, also known as motorcycle football. Two Lithuanian motoball teams exist (in Kretinga and Skuodas) and they play in the Central European league against opponents from Belarus and Ukraine.

A match of motoball in Kretinga where local Milda plays against Luninec from Belarus. The players attempt to score a goal while driving motorcycles. There are 5 teammates in a field, but the goalkeeper is without a motorcycle. The ball is moved aound as a player presses it with his leg to a motorcycle wheel or passes to another player. The offside rule forbids crossing the central line without passing. In Kretinga the motoball match attendances surpass that of local basketball and football. ©Augustinas Žemaitis.

Article written by Augustinas Žemaitis

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